Presented as part of the requirement for an award within the Undergraduate Modular Scheme at the University of Gloucestershire.
This dissertation is a product of my own work and is not the work of anything done in collaboration.
I agree that this dissertation may be available for reference and photocopying at the discretion of the University.
Joel Grates – 0301389
I would like to thank my dissertation tutor, Dr. Andy Pitchford for his guidance in writing this study.
I would also like to thank my parents for all the encouragement and advice given throughout the study.
Special thanks to all the participants who helped the research study.
Professional football is a huge element of popular culture throughout England and the World. This study explores the effect a large, professional club, Everton Football Club relocating from its current stadium, Goodison Park, would have on the community in the immediate vicinity of Goodison Park. It will provide a greater understanding of the meaning of the club to the community. Firstly, literature on sport and space is analysed to identify relevant issues, followed by a discussion of identity and football. Finally there is a section on Everton Football Club. A qualitative research approach was taken and structured and semi-structured interviews were conducted with a both purposive and convenient sample, including the two chaplains of Everton Football Club. The research found that, firstly, all of the interviewees agreed that it is inevitable that Everton Football Club will relocate or redevelop in the foreseeable future. All of the interviewees also suggested relocation of Everton Football Club would have negative effects on the community in the immediate vicinity of Goodison Park. Four prominent themes were found, being loss of community work, identity, morals and trade in the area.
The reason the study was carried out was to establish the opinions of a sample of participants with various connections to Everton Football Club with regards to a proposed ground move. The main topic looked at how relocation away from Everton’s current home ground, Goodison Park, would affect the community in the immediate vicinity of Goodison Park.
Everton Football Club was formed in 1878 and was one of the founding members of the football league. Having won 9 top league titles, 5 F.A. Cups as well as the European Cup Winners Cup amongst others, Everton is the 4th most successful club in England. It is also ranked 17th in the European Rich List, as ranked by income, drawn up by accountants Deloitte (football Economy.com 2006).
Everton has been at its current home, Goodison Park for 114 years now and in 1997, the chairman at the time, Peter Johnson, expressed his plans to find Everton a new, contemporary stadium. ‘Johnson presented the fans in 1996-97 with a proposal to leave Goodison and purpose-build a brand new 60,000-seat super stadium for the club’ (Conn 1997:98). With Everton securing more investment from multi-millionaire owner of the Planet Hollywood chain of restaurants in October 2006, more money is readily available to relocate. Everton's Chief Operating Officer Robert Elstone, interviewed in Malaysia's New Strait Times, indicates clearly the intention of the Club to move into a newly constructed stadium in the next few seasons. Mr. Elstone says, ‘We are constructing a new stadium and it will be ready in two or three years time. Goodison Park, located in the centre of a residential area in Liverpool, has a small sitting capacity of around 40,000’ (Toffeeweb.com 2006).
Annual revenue from ticket sales is just one reason it seems inevitable Everton Football Club will relocate soon. Professional football is escalating rapidly, with more and more money being pumped into it whether that be in the form of sponsorship, TV revenue or just increased ground capacity and ticket prices. Multi-million pound takeovers of clubs are also becoming a regular occurrence, such as the £140million takeover of Chelsea Football Club by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in July 2003 (BBC news online, 2003), and football clubs are being run as money-making businesses. Many clubs are now millions in debt, securing loans in an attempt to compete with the richer clubs. Stadiums provide clubs with huge revenue and it is no coincidence that Manchester United has long been one of the richest clubs in Europe with Old Trafford having a capacity of 76,000.
Table 1 below shows estimates of the annual revenue from Barclays Premiership matches for both Everton and Manchester United. The estimates show that Manchester United receive almost double that of Everton’s ticket revenue in Barclays Premiership matches. A good cup run or playing in Europe will increase the revenue even more. O’Connor (2005) predicts Manchester United’s ticket revenue is about to dramatically rise, with ticket prices set to rise and almost double in five years.
Table 1: Premiership Ticket Revenue (Evertonfc.com 2006; Manutd.com 2006)
|Club||Ground Capacity||Average Ticket Price||Annual Revenue|
|Everton F.C.||40,000||£29||£22 million|
|Man United F.C.||76,000||£30||£43.3 million|
This annual revenue from ticket sales helps fund the purchase of players, which in turn, is thought to help bring more success to a club. If Everton were to relocate to a purpose built larger stadium, with an increase in capacity, then this would in turn bring more ticket revenue, possibly funding the purchase of quality players.
Another reason for re-location is that Goodison Park is one of the few stadiums in the Barclays Premiership which has not had ‘major reconstruction to improve facilities or increase capacity’ (Liverpool Echo 2004). John Burns (1995) suggests that the site of Goodison is too small for the club’s requirements. He goes on to compare Goodison Park with other stadiums, clearly showing that Goodison Park has been left behind in stadium technology, after being at the fore-front for several decades. Burns also writes of how Everton Football Club needs a new stadium to enter into the ‘European Super-club’ status, giving examples of how all large European teams have large modern stadiums. He concludes his article by stating radical change is needed, as Goodison Park is now ‘just a legacy of the club’s small beginnings, gaining support from the immediate community’ (Burns 1995: online).
Goodison Park is a lot more than just a stadium where Everton Football Club plays, however. Hopecraft (1988) writes of the emotional attachment supporters develop towards a stadium. Goodison Park is an important symbol of Everton Football Club and is situated right in the centre of a residential community, which partly relies on the club for income. The Premier League study 2003-4 also shows that 75% of the participants were born within 20 miles of the ground, representing Everton as a very local club, ranking joint 5th out of the 20 clubs.
It is hoped that at the end of the study the results may identify what effect, if any, the somewhat inevitable relocation of Everton Football Club will have on the community in the immediate vicinity of Goodison Park. The reason why this is an important investigation is not only because 40,000 fans go to Goodison Park week in week out, but also because Everton have such strong links and programmes with the community, having been there for 114 years.
A qualitative research approach was followed, in the form of structured and semi-structured interviews. This was because an interpretive investigation of the feelings of the participants was thought necessary.
The literature review provides an in-depth look at sport in a community, and how re-locating a football team can affect the surrounding community. There are three sections in the review, with sport and space being looked at initially. Identity and football will be the subject of the second section, followed by a detailed look at Everton Football Club itself.
Sport and space
It is often said that ‘sports are a reflection of society’ (Theberge, 1981: online). Coakley (2003: pg 10), however, opposes this view:
Sports are more than reflections of society. They are constructed as people interact with one another Of course social conditions have an impact on the structure and dynamics of sports, but, within parameters set by those conditions, people can change sports or keep them the way they are.
In his history of sport and society since 1945, Polley (1998: pg 48) states that nowadays ‘there is a greater diversity of sport available for people to participate in’. For example, he claims that most North Americans will encounter sport in some shape or form almost every day of their lives ‘as active participants, interested spectators, or disinterested bystanders’. Sports are thus becoming more and more a form of entertainment for the masses rather than a hobby, and with growing commercialisation and money being pumped into sports, sports clubs are being run more like businesses. As a consequence, Bale (2003: pg 93) suggests that ‘clubs relocate to more profitable locations’ and it seems more likely ‘that sport will continue to adjust geographically in response to the increasing seriousness with which it is taken.’
John Bale (1982) suggests that ‘just as stereotypes of sports participants differ according to the sports they play, some regions are perceived as being identified with particular sports.’ There are, for example, regular associations of Northern counties, such as Yorkshire and Cumbria with rugby league, and likewise, associations of Wales with rugby. These associations may form due to sports persons’ personal links and contacts with people from these areas, or due to how the media portray the links between the sports and these areas. Research studies have also shown evidence of specific geographical areas being associating with particular sports. The diagram below, for instance, shows how the north-west region produces more than 1.3 times the national capita average of professional footballers (Bale, 2003). It is also apparent that the area in this current study, Liverpool, has a close association with football.
Identity and Football
For many years, people have supported football teams for a number of reasons, ranging from influence from family and friends, place of birth and for ‘glory’ reasons; to feel attached to a winning team. But most of these diverse supporters identify with and feel a part of the team they support, together with, in some cases, thousands of other like-minded supporters. In Liverpool, for example, football is a huge part of life. But what gives these supporters their sense of cohesion and allegiance to their football team? What constitutes the ‘football identity’? Jarvie (2006: pg 263) claims it is due to a shared common history:
The sense of allegiance that many hard-core sports fans have for a particular team is almost religious-like in the sense that the fans share a common history and stand in a particular relationship to other sports fans and groups that are integral to a sense of who one is.
Giulianotti explores the shared economic history of Liverpudlians, first describing how Liverpool was a city ‘mourning for its economic decay and cultural marginality’ (1999: pg 21). He goes on to describe how the city was later ‘devastated by post-industrial ‘restructuring’ throughout the 1980s’.
Another commonality amongst supporters can be their religious allegiance, which sometimes sparks fierce rivalries as with, for example, Glasgow Celtic and Glasgow Rangers Football Clubs. Celtic are predominantly a catholic club, with catholic supporters; whilst Rangers are predominantly a protestant club with protestant supporters. If one was brought up in a catholic area and family, Celtic would be the supported club; likewise with protestants and Rangers. Thus we can see that loyalties to football clubs are entrenched in the wider complexities of a community, and it is argued that they cannot be separated and isolated from the religious and socio-economic backdrop of the community. When considering Liverpool’s history, one can see that it has been greatly influenced by Irish immigration, being on the coast of the Irish Sea, which also meant it was influenced by Christianity and also the ‘culture of Celtic expressiveness’ (1999: pg 21). This expressiveness can find some outlet in the football stadium as Armstrong (2000, cited in Finn, 2000: pg 176) describes:
Football support has long been one of the obvious activities at which men have exhibited those emotions they would be reluctant to demonstrate elsewhere.
Death has also been associated with football in Liverpool, with The Hillsborough disaster in 1989, and the actions of many supporters after the disaster. And so the notion of football identity, certainly in Liverpool, is very complex:
Football and death: Protestant and Catholic, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic (or Latin), white and black, north and south, rich and poor. The constellation of these historical and cultural identities encapsulates the complexity of football identity per se.
(Giulianotti 1999: pg 22)
Furthermore, Armstrong (1999: pg 19) points out that: ‘From its earliest moments, football has provided a potent vehicle for the generation of territorial loyalties’. Canter (1989) describes how club supporters’ opinions on differences between their club and other clubs are very apparent; whilst most objective outsiders do not see this ‘personality’ of a club, only measuring a club by size and success. Canter (1989: pg 3) goes on to describe how ‘some clubs are perceived as friendly, some as impressive, some as apathetic and some as hostile.’ Some fan groups more than others, are family and location based. For Everton Football Club, the supporters have a great sense of being ‘chosen’, and even some of the players have noticed this huge trait of being ‘a family- like club’. Labone (1940-2006) believes that one Evertonian is worth 20 Liverpudlians, having played for Everton for over a decade and supported them his whole life (Roberts, 2006).
So, football is much more than just a tactical game. In many societies, the local football club is the heart-beat of the community; the life of the area. It can shape the culture in the area, and grow with the community. The football stadium is a symbol of the community, just as the local church, school or shops may be. Traditionally, in Liverpool, a very working-class city, people are affiliated with either Everton or Liverpool. This would be the team one goes to watch week in week out with friends and family. The football clubs are the very fabric of the community. Historically, Liverpool has very little to be proud of, until that is, the emergence of football and two successful football clubs. In Liverpool, fans are classified as either blue or red, and this would be one’s identity. The blue would be a representation of the home colour of Everton Football Club and the red a representation of the home colour of Liverpool Football Club.
Football stadia are a key part of being a football fan; the place where one’s team plays every week, where supporters stand alongside one another. Hopecraft (1988: pg 141) writes of the appearance and sentiment of football grounds in the 1960’s:
Football grounds are not attractive places in the ornamental sense. Their beauty is the special, environment kind, appreciable only to people who relate to their emotional attachment.
Vertinsky (2004) describes the experience of visiting a stadium: how each of the senses is stimulated and how the sense of belonging to a crowd is a distinct part of attending a stadium; Bale (1993: pg 55) goes on to state that “senses of humour, timing, rhythm, place and space (among others) are all part of the stadium experience”. An inexplicable bonding takes place which re-enforces the sense of community and belonging.
Everton Football club has long been described as “The People’s Club”, and has this embedded on the side of the Park Road stand. The club has a somewhat unique link with the community in the local districts; with it being the first and only Barclays Premiership club to get the desirable Community Mark (awarded by Business In The Community (patron HRH Prince of Wales)) and is also the only registered charity in the Barclays Premiership.
Everton Football Club was formed in 1878 when the cricket team of St Domingo’s Church turned to football. It was re-named Everton a year later, after the team had recruited a number of players from different churches. Everton was the district west to Stanley Park where they played, and where most of the players were from. In 1884 Everton moved to a site in Anfield Road, where the ground was called Anfield. Before the start of the 1885-86 season, Everton Football Club decided to become a professional club. It was a mark of the club’s growing success, after winning local cups. This duly gave them an invitation to form the football league in 1888 for the 12 leading professional teams in the country. In 1892, the Everton committee fell out of favour with the then chairman John Houlding (Lupson, 2006). Everton left Anfield and moved across to Stanley Park to Goodison Park, bringing about the formation of Liverpool Association Football Club at Anfield, chaired by John Houlding. The club has since changed its name to just Liverpool Football Club. The two sites have been the home to these two great football clubs ever since.
Being 114 years old, Goodison Park is one of the oldest stadiums in the country, and was the first major stadium to be built. Everton Football Club has been in a great stadium debate for over 10 years now. It is looking more and more likely that re-development of Goodison Park will be disregarded, and a number of possible re-location sites have been brought forward. Since Goodison Park is such a symbol of Everton Football Club, this study will look at the affect a re-location will have on the community.
Evertonians have also received good publicity and image from their associations with Liverpool fans; their fiercest of rivals. Liverpool Football Club was birthed when Everton left their ground at the time, Anfield, moving to a new purpose built ground under 500yards across Stanley Park; Goodison Park. Armstrong (1999, pg 19) describes:
The long history of good relations between Liverpool and Everton fans (perhaps declining in the 1990s) has allowed Merseyside soccer to be perceived as reflecting a stoic and heroic working-class culture.
There exists a strong sense of pride and belonging together for the citizens of Liverpool against all the odds of poverty and deprivation.
Goodison Park is a unique and individual stadium characterised by having, in the corner between the Main Stand and the Gwladys Street End stands, St Luke’s church. Bale (1993:65) states that ‘it is a relict of the urban landscape, today dominated by the steel structure which is Goodison Park.’ It is the only stadium in England to have a church attached to it, and represents a great symbol of Everton Football Club, inseparably joined to the community in the immediate vicinity of Goodison Park.
With St Luke’s Church being such a part of the symbol of Everton, and the history of the club being born from a church, the club also has some overtly practising Christian players. Nigeria international defender, Joseph Yobo, regularly speaks at various church or youth events in Liverpool, expressing his opinions on his faith and how that is a part of his life as a professional footballer. So how would leaving Goodison Park and all the attached character, tradition and symbolism affect the community. Would there be a large void left by the relocation?
Everton Football Club still has many of the Christian morals which first brought about the formation of the club from St. Domingo’s in 1878. The club has a scheme called Football In The Community (FITC) which has 11 full-time staff distributing football based community activities across the area around Goodison Park. These would include coaching trips to local primary and secondary schools, football for disabled people (with six disability teams officially representing Everton), Social Inclusion Programme working with many ‘at risk’ youngsters, racial awareness projects, girl’s football, residential courses and soccer camps (Bluekipper.com, 2006). On average 50,000 children and adults participate in Everton run community activities every year. This is just one example of how Everton are an intricate part of the community and how the community quasi depends on the club for stability. It is the ethics and morals of the Church team that are still in place today, caring for the disadvantaged groups in the area. The community links of the club are the framework behind it.
The aim of this study was to learn what Everton Football Club means to the community in the immediate vicinity of Goodison Park. The study looks at how a possible, and almost inevitable, stadium move would affect the community. As this appears to be an unresearched area of study, statistical techniques were not used; rather, a qualitative, inductive approach was taken.
Qualitative research is research that derives data from observation, interviews, or verbal interactions and focuses on the meanings and interpretations of the participants (Holloway, 1995). The emphasis is on interpreting the data in words, whereas quantitative research is ‘empirical research where the data are in the form of numbers’ (Punch 1998: pg 4).
Data Collection Technique
The basic research style is subjective in that the work was observational and involved the researcher. Who analysed and interpreted the interview data. The interview questions often led to unexpected narrative that showed the subjects’ perspectives.
Some writers criticise this approach as being too subjective. Swetnam (2000: pg 35-39), for example, views this sort of action or participative research as being potentially biased or ‘dissolving into haphazard tinkering’ as the researcher is involved with the problem.
Structured and semi-structured interviewing of the subjects concentrated on the topic of relocation, and their opinions on related matters. It was expected that the proposed methods of research might have been problematic due to the researcher’s lack of experience in interviewing. Bell argues that, ‘Interviewers are human beings and not machines’ (1999: pg 139) and so the manner in which interviews are carried out may influence interviewees. For instance, the participants may have wanted to please the interviewer which would have biased the responses, or hostility may have arisen between the interviewer and the participants. Borg (1981) tells us that these are ‘response effects’ to interviewing, which experienced survey researchers understand. Fortunately, unease between the interviewer and interviewees did not arise in the study.
As well as concerns about the interviewing technique there were concerns about possible bias due to any preconceived ideas by the researcher about the topic. Gavron acknowledges that bias cannot always be avoided but ‘awareness of the problem plus self-constraint can help’ (1966: pg 159). Keeping the idea of ‘constant self-constraint’ uppermost Mason adds that there are commitments and responsibilities in presenting research findings (2002: pg 145-73). Cannell (1968) also states that the questions asked ought to be fitting and beneficial to the study and must not interfere into the participant’s personal life too much.
A pilot interview was performed to guarantee that participants would understand the questions posed and for the benefit of the interviewer to learn how to ask spontaneous questions which may arise from the set questions. Conducting a pilot interview increases the reliability of the study (Neuman, 2003). The interviews were all recorded using a dictaphone; this also increasing the reliability and validity of the research.
Qualitative research was undertaken in the form of structured and semi-structured interviews. Structured interviews are those which strictly follow the list of questions put forward. Semi-structured interviews also follow the set list of questions, but with the allowance of tangent questions which may arise from an answer from a set question. The interviews were recorded using a tape recorder and by taken written notes. This identified the subject’s views and attitudes towards a possible relocation. The sample was non-probabilistic and non-random. It was also both convenience sampling, as there was easy access to the subjects, and purposive sampling as all the subjects had very relevant links to the study topic. The requirement for the subjects was they all had to be associated with Everton Football Club. Interviews were conducted with:
- the Vicar of St. Luke’s Church and Everton Chaplain
- the Vicar of St. Peter’s Church in Everton and Everton Chaplain
- a community worker working in the ‘Football In The Community’ programme
- a community worker working in the Walton and Everton area
- two season ticket holders living in the immediate vicinity of Goodison Park
The two Everton Chaplains were chosen because they worked with and had immediate contact with Everton Football Club, whilst the local season ticket holders would have insight into the supporters’ view of how the area would be affected by relocation. The community workers would bring insight into how Everton carry out the community programmes and have an understanding of the relationship between club and community.
The data captured has been interpretively and reflectively read in presenting the findings. Each interview was written up separately as Patton (2002) suggests each case can be grounded in its own context before themes are drawn together. Following the transcription process, the data were coded for common themes, and interpreted by the researcher (see discussion section).
Importantly, informed consent was sought from the participants and confidentiality assured prior to the interviewing. Appropriate sections were taped and transcribed for analysis. Quotations from various participants were used to highlight major points subject to permission being granted. It was not necessary to change the names of participants as they did not object to their own names being used in the report.
There are likely to be limitations to all research studies with this study being no exception. There were a number of factors which may have limited and ultimately affected the validity of this study. Firstly, time was a limit as the study had a deadline. This may have in turn affected the number of subjects interviewed.
Bias may also be a limitation in this study. Neuman (2000) describes how ideally the subjects’ answers should be the same if asked the same questions by a different interviewer. However, it may be possible for the interviewer to lead the subject into saying particular answers. A pilot interview helped prevent this happening. Another limitation is the experience of the interviewer. An inexperienced interviewer may affect results by their unprofessional behaviour (Sarantakos, 1998). This could be in the form of missing questions, or failing to record the answer. The pilot interview and a tape recorder helped eradicate unprofessional behaviour.
To avoid bias and criticism, member checking was carried out. Interpretations of all findings were checked with subsequent interviewees to check the perspective of the subjects are not being heard wrong, and not biasing the data or making assumptions. An audit trail was also kept, to keep the study objective. A record of the major decisions throughout the study, such as sampling choice and not being bias were made to keep the study transparent and objective.
The purpose for researching the topic was due to the increased possibility of the relocation of Everton Football Club, and how this would affect the community in the immediate vicinity of Goodison Park. It was expected that the findings would provide an insight into the effects of relocation on the community.
In this chapter the methodology has been described and critically evaluated to illustrate that:
- Quantitative research was considered inappropriate for this study
- Qualitative research was undertaken by:
(i) Structured interviews
(ii) Semi-structured interviews
(iii) An inductive, interpretive style
Ethical considerations were also taken into account during the data collection, and the data was analysed using thematic coding.
The following chapter presents the research findings and these are discussed in relation to the topic and the methodology, highlighting the interviewees’ perspectives on how the community in the immediate vicinity of Goodison Park would be affected by relocation.
This chapter will summarise the raw data from the interviews which will highlight the key findings. The aim of the interviews was to establish the feelings of a sample of subjects who were considered to have good insight into how the relocation away from Goodison Park would affect Everton Football Club. All of the subjects agreed that it was inevitable that relocation would occur, and Harry Ross, Chaplain of Everton Football Club, predicted Everton would have a new home by 2010. The results brought up four main effects that Everton’s relocation would have on the area.
With Everton Football Club doing so much for the community currently, all participants were sure that relocation away from Goodison Park would inevitably mean much of the good community work would be lost in the area. The ‘Football In The Community’ programme which has encouraged and helped hundreds of thousands of local residents over the past decade would inevitably relocate with the club, although a small remnant would remain. As Community Worker 1 stated:
I’m sure we would continue some of the work, but many of the summer camps or just “kick-abouts” will have to be dropped from the programme. It will also be difficult to continue visiting all of the schools we currently visit.
The current training programmes all encourage team-work, hard work, setting and achieving goals, as well as strongly supporting anti-racism. For many of the local residents this is the predominant way of learning these essential values of a cohesive and healthy cross-cultural community.
Both of the Club Chaplains voiced their opinions on the Football In The Community Programme, and the effect relocation would have on this. Vicar 1 spoke of how the work ‘may have to be dropped’, whilst Vicar 2 said:
The work they do is tremendous, they have so many training programmes which incorporate all angles of the community; men, women, children, disabled I think this would be sorely missed if all of these programmes left the area.
The Vicar of St. Luke’s provided great insight into how much Everton Football Club actually do in the community. He also spoke of the links between the church, where he has been vicar for 30 years, and Everton Football Club. He described how the church itself has a remembrance garden, which backs onto the Gwladys Street End Stand. Here ashes of Everton fans the world over are sent, and scattered, or in some instances, shrubs and plants are planted. Plaques are made representing all those whose ashes have been sent in. Some of the countries include New Zealand and Canada, showing the worldwide fan base Everton Football Club has. Local Evertonian vicars also have their ashes scattered in the remembrance garden in St. Luke’s.
If and when Everton do relocate, the links with St. Luke’s church will be all but lost. St. Luke’s serves as far more than just a local church in the area; it also serves as a social centre for the club. On regular match days, the church opens up two and a half hours before kick off for supporters to come and have a cup of tea or just a sit down. Over 30 pints of milk are used on an average match day, showing just how many cups of tea the church provides for the supporters. When speaking of St. Luke’s, the Vicar said: It is also used for the police briefing prior to matches, as well as a place for the police to have a tea break whilst the match is on.
The church also is responsible for looking after all of the ex-players on match days, making sure they are comfortable throughout the day. As well as this, the church has a charity for the ex-players, which helps fund necessary operations which may be needed.
The general feeling was that although the local community where Everton would eventually relocate to would undoubtedly benefit greatly from the move, the current area would lose out on important links with the club:
Much of the community would inevitably relocate too, and the community surrounding the new site will benefit greatly from it.
So, in summary, relocation of the club would result in loss of the training programmes to the existing local community; loss of important links with the local church and the relocation of some of the community itself.
History, Heritage and Identity
When asked the question: “What do you think is more important: the history and heritage of the club; or the commercialisation and financial progress of the club?” all the participants answered that the history and heritage of the club was more important
When the participants were asked “Do you think EFC is a symbol of the city of Liverpool?” they all answered positively. One of the community workers said that:
In Liverpool, football is and has been for previous generations a very important part of life. The two football clubs represent the city of Liverpool.
Goodison Park itself is steeped with history and tradition. The stadium is centrally positioned in a terraced residential area, and it is hard to imagine the area without the stadium, after it being there for 114 years. Football has played a very traditional role in the area and will continue to do so even if Everton relocate. This is one reason for the strong support it has:
In my opinion, Everton seems to be different to other clubs in the Premiership. It is a completely traditional club, and this is what makes them the team I love and support.
(Local supporter 2)
The Vicar of St. Peter’s Church likewise stated ‘The history and heritage of EFC is what makes it such a special club’. Community Worker 1 went as far to say that ‘EFC belongs at Goodison Park,’ and that he thought ‘for many Evertonians, Goodison Park will always be home’. He continued to describe the sense of identity the club gave the locals:
Football is what makes the locals proud, and gives them a great sense of identity. If and when EFC relocate, the community will miss the club immensely.
Local supporter 1 expressed how the local community viewed the football club:
Everton has always been in the mentality of the community, with many of the houses being under the shadow of Goodison.
It was also suggested by some of the interviewees that many of the traditions which have been in existence at Everton Football Club for so long may be lost. One such tradition is the family orientation of the club. Local Supporter 1 spoke of his experiences at Goodison Park:
The certainly is a lot of emphasis on Everton being a family orientated club; with it having a popular whole tier as the family enclosure. The “toffee-lady” also is an example of this, throwing sweets into the crowd.
Local Supporter 1 also backed Everton being a family orientated club, emphasising how he has always attended matches with family. Local Supporter 2 also shared his match day experiences with family. Local Supporter 2, however, expressed his fears that Everton Football Club would lose its close links with the local community if it relocated, and would become a more business-like club:
The reason why we support Everton here is because Everton is here; it’s our team; it’s there for us. If it moved it would no longer be the “people’s club”, it would become like Chelsea or Manchester United – a commercial club with money prioritising over the fans.
There are many different trades in the community around Everton which part-rely on the football club for business. Hundreds of the local residents are also employed by the club - many of the stewards employed by the club are local residents - and these would find it difficult to maintain their current positions and roles should the club relocate. Community Worker 2 said:
I also am very aware of the number of jobs Everton provide for the community; stewards, bar staff and I’m sure there are many more. It would be hard to see how these people could continue their roles in the club.
All of the programme and merchandise stalls would certainly have to move with the club. Indeed a number of the participants predicted that Goodison Park would be knocked down and turned into some sort of retail outlet; perhaps a mega-store, a retail park or a superstore. The Vicar of St. Luke’s described some of the negative effects this would have:
Housebound elderly would lose local shops, which they have relied on for so long. Travelling to a superstore for the elderly is practically very difficult.
Local chip shops and pubs also rely on the home matches of Everton for customers and business. The Vicar of St. Peter’s stated:
The community is very close-knit at the moment, and I think this will gradually break, as the shops and pubs would close.
Everton Football Club relocating could potentially lead to residents moving away from the area, with a subsequent possible increase in crime:
I suspect the area will demoralise, as people move out, and no one moves in. There will be no attraction to the area. This would inevitably lead to more crime, such as vandalism of boarded up houses.
Community worker 2)
This would inevitably have an affect on the value of property in the area, with house prices dropping if their location is surrounded by many boarded up houses and possibly pubs and chip shops. This effect would be spiral-like, with nobody moving into the area, residents moving out, and local trade diminishing and possibly disappearing:
People have moved into the area to be closer to the club. It would take years to recover. The local chippies and stalls would lose out on a lot of money and possibly be caused to shut down.
(local supporter 1)
First and foremost, the link between Everton and St. Luke’s Church will be lost with relocation. The Church is more than just a building situated in the corner of Goodison Park. It is part of the history and heritage of the club. The Church does a lot in the community as previously stated. The Vicar of St. Peter’s describes how St. Luke’s not only accomplishes a lot of community work, but is part of the identity of the club:
I think most Everton fans are aware of the strong links the club has and has had with churches. I think people see it as part of the club; part of the identity.
The award-winning community programmes that Everton run in the community set a great moral example for the locals:
It provides an outlet for thousands of the local residents which is productive and teaches good morals and teamwork. I dread to think what many of our kids who come to our events would be doing if they weren’t with us.
(Community worker 1)
Much of the charity work, such as the club players and staff, as well as chaplains, visiting hospitals on a regular basis, will inevitably relocate also. It is more than just the working links with St. Luke’s Church that will be broken if Everton relocates, however. The Vicar of St. Peter’s suggested that part of the reason why Everton was such a family-orientated club that also carries out a lot of community work is because of the roots of the club - the church. These roots are still very prominent, with Everton being the only Barclays Premiership club to never kick off early on a Sunday. The Vicar of St. Luke’s explained:
Early kick offs on Sundays never occur at Goodison due to the affect it would have on the congregation of the church. The church has a deal with BBC, ITV and BSkyB to prevent the early kick offs.
Thus it can be seen that the strong links established with St. Luke’s church provide a moral standard for the football club, which is translated into community outreach, a focus on the family and a respect for church tradition.